Stephen King on ''24'' -- The Pop of King discusses the hit Fox show by
It's always annoying to be bumped by the front-of-the-book boys and girls
(this column was slated to go last week, but then News & Notes ran ''Has 24
Gone Too Far?''), but the additional time has given me a chance to refine
these 14 Lessons. Hell, even back-of-the-book guys understand that when it
comes to current events, the clock is always...but that's Lesson 1.
1. The Clock Is Always Ticking This builds suspense and rushes us past any
inconsistencies, as in season 3, where the subways, streets, and schools are
filled long after President Palmer has told everyone in L.A. to stay home.
2. There Are Enemies Everywhere They have homemade nukes, vials stuffed with
lethal viruses, and Nuclear Power Plant Meltdown Devices (NPPMDs). Many of
the enemies have prayer rugs rolled up in their closets and names like
3. We Fight Back With American Technology The center of this fight is the
Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU), filled with computers and run by a boss who
never stops saying stuff like ''Switch the A-4 booger-sucker node to kernel
7 now!'' and ''Nobody goes home until we get these guys!''
4. The Technology Always Screws Up Those tracking satellites are especially
pesky, but the darn computers aren't much better; they always seem to be
full of worms and viruses. I often wish that stoner guy would stroll in and
say, ''Hey, CTU dudes, don't worry! You're all gettin' Dells!''
5. The Management Ain't That Great Either Last year's boss (Tony Almeida)
went in the crapper for putting his wife's safety above the welfare of the
country. This year's boss (Erin Driscoll) has a schizo daughter with a
morbid fixation on the 7-year-old next door. Erin also loathes Jack Bauer
and dumped Chloe O'Brien, who seems to be the only tech (other than Edgar)
capable of using CTU's off-brand computers and no-name software.
6. The More Chloe Pouts, the Better I can't wait for Chloe (underplayed with
deadly, delightful precision by Mary Lynn Rajskub) to return from exile. Why
7. Never Trust the President's Wife If you watched the first three seasons
and met Sherry Palmer, a smiling ogre who makes Erin Driscoll seem a
schoolyard brat, no further explanation is needed.
8. Never Trust Smart African-American Women in General As last week's EW
story points out, they all seem to be high-riding you-know-what cutters.
Sherry Palmer, seasons 1-3; Julia Milliken, last season; the current
Marianne Taylor; case closed.
9. The President's Advisers Are Monsters of Expediency Sherry Palmer is
always the best example of this lesson, but recently the man closest to the
current president advised that it would be better to scrag the hostage
secretary of defense (and his daughter) in a purposely botched raid rather
than allow terrorists to put him on trial. Harsh! Last year, President
Palmer's brother wanted to snag Senator Keeler's debate playbook and later
took part in an abortive black-bag job that led to a murder-suicide. And,
speaking of suicide:
10. On 24, Suicide Is Always an Option Mysterious and vaguely Middle Eastern
music preceding the act is optional (as just before Kalil Hasan offed
himself by running into a truck), but the act itself is always on the table.
It's true that Ryan Chappelle couldn't quite bring himself to ventilate the
old brain bucket (Jack Bauer considerately finished him off), and Secretary
of Defense Heller and his daughter Audrey were saved before they could
finish sniffing the gas, but Julia Milliken turned the trick last
season...and then there were all those hotel virus victims, lining up for
so-long capsules. I kept wondering if they were swallowing them with
Kool-Aid while the Reverend Jim Jones told stories about his dear old
11. For 24 Hours, the Rule of Law Is Suspended There's no worrying about
search warrants, Miranda warnings, any of that nonsense. Things are too
dire. Everything is black-and-white; the good guys are all good and the bad
guys are superbad (Nina Myers, for instance, may be the greatest TV villain
ever). Certainly no one worries about a little torture with the fate of the
country hanging by a thread. Jack Bauer never works over the wrong person,
anyway. Although wouldn't it be great if, after shooting a guy in the leg
and then asking him who he works for, the guy screamed: ''I work for Dell,
dude! I came to fix the crappy computers in this place! Please don't shoot
me in the other leg!''
12. In the Course of the Season, One Good Guy Will Get Killed Or ? as in the
case of Chase Edmunds ? will only get his hand chopped off.
13. In the Course of the Season, One Good Guy Will Turn Out to Be a Bad Guy
This is the Nina Myers Rule, and to 24 fans, it really needs no further
explanation. You can't call it the Tony Almeida Rule, because I had a
feeling Tony would be back even before he turned up to save Jack and
And finally...of course...
14. For One Day a Year, Jack Bauer Will Not Need to Go to the Bathroom for
24 Hours But once those 24 hours are up, I bet he's in there for a long
Thanks to Guia